Reflections on Turning 40 (the Version I Told Myself I Would Not Share)

Two disclaimers before you advance any farther. #1: If you think that the four years you spent in high school (or college) were the best years of your life, this post is not for you. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, click out of this article, abort mission. (Unless you are actually in highschool or college! Then disregard that!) #2: This post is the bathing suit version of what I had decided was going to stay jeans and t-shirt. If you don’t want to know who I am, run for the hills while you still can!

Speaking of hills, I’m officially “over the hill” today! And you know what? I’m super grateful. Forty sometimes gets a bad rep, but I’m choosing to view it differently (remind me I said this, please!). Instead of looking back yearning for glory days, I only want to look back for the purpose of seeing how God was at work and giving Him glory. Doesn’t that sound better? We could have glory days every day!

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I don’t want to be like people who get stuck in the past as if the present didn’t exist and the future is already over. I want to model for all those coming up behind me, including my daughter, how to graciously embrace aging. I want women (and men) everywhere to like themselves at every age and know that life is a gift at any age.

So…yeah. Now comes the part that’s hard to write. But here’s why I decided to go ahead and bare a chunk of my heart to you: because if I don’t share the hard and ugly parts, then it diminishes how amazing God was when He brought me out of them. I hope that’s what you take away from all this – celebrating God’s amazingness.

So why am I so grateful to enter my 40s? Buckle up, buttercup…

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Half my life ago, I had deathly anxiety about turning 20yrs. From all the Bible reading I’d done, I concluded that turning 20yrs marked a new way of relating to God. This was when individuals were counted in the census and (males) expected to go to war, if necessary. I got it in my head that turning 20yrs would mean there was no mediator between me and God anymore – my parent’s faith wouldn’t save me – it would be me and God, mano a mano. And because of some ongoing choices I’d made that I knew didn’t align with God’s word or the way I was brought up, I only anticipated God’s wrath.

I lived in this horrific anticipation for a few years. Ticking of clocks terrified me, reminding me that every second of my life was borrowed time and it was getting closer and closer to the time my lease was up. I was trying to repent but the more I did to try to satisfy God, the more I knew I was condemned. I would shut myself up in my bedroom after work and read the Bible for hours on end. I would hold prayer vigils on my knees late into the night long after my legs had gone numb trying to pray my way to peace. I gave up my favorite activities. I ate barely enough to survive and stopped eating altogether at one point. My hair started thinning and grew brittle. At my full grown height of 5’4” at age 20, I weighed 85 pounds.

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I sought answers from numerous Christians, but no one could ever reason in a logical way that made sense to me. The best I heard were clichéd verses that stopped short of explaining why I could know I was saved. Others more or less shrugged, having never struggled themselves. What was worse than that, though, were the times when words and thoughts completely failed me – as if someone had reached inside my brain and purposely scooped out the parts I needed in order to communicate. All I was left with was isolation, bewilderment, and terror. The depth of isolation was more profound than I can articulate. I’ve experienced relational issues, health issues (mine and others), and the deaths of family members since that time, and nothing begins to even come close to the darkness of my late teens and early 20s.

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In great despair, I contemplated suicide and stopped only because I was convinced it would hasten my entrance into hell. I had vivid nightmares of the devil chasing me. To avoid them, I’d stay up late until I practically passed out from fatigue. Believing that you are destined for hell with no hope of forgiveness is the worst state a human can experience on earth.

Through a long, painful journey that included moving across the country, God led me away from the edge of the abyss to green pastures.

He taught me a lot of hard truths in the process. He took away everything I thought I could build my life on and let me feel the agonizing pain of my inadequacy to stand before a holy God. And then He introduced grace. He restored my soul after breaking it down in costly renovation. I’m still in process but always a bit wary lest He need to haul out the wrecking ball again and start over. I’m convinced God will spare no cost to ensure we become who He’s destined us to be.

This is both terrifying and comforting (as are most aspects of God! lol).

Today I am still 5’4” but weigh a healthy 120 lbs. I am happily-mostly-aftered to my best friend who shows me Jesus-with-skin on every day and has borne with me for better or for worse for 16 yrs. Two humans who didn’t exist before were knit together in my womb, entered the world, and have been enriching and challenging my life for eleven years. I am a Lyme survivor. I have friends who I value tremendously.

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But while having restored health and good relationships are treasures to me, they don’t overshadow the most priceless treasure God gave me out of all that mess: Himself. His peace. A solid rock. An anchor for my soul. His forgiveness and everlasting love. Restored sanity. His Son who lives to intercede for me. A heart that doesn’t race anymore when I hear a clock ticking. An assurance deep down that He is with me even when everything else is uncertain. An undercurrent of quiet joy, even in deepest grief. A hope that’s like those inflatable things you punch that always bounce back. The conviction that God really has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.

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There’s a lot more I could share, but this is a modest bathing suit version, a swim dress. Lol Suffice it to say – I went from being terrified of being alone with God to being at peace with God. And that peace has slowly seeped into other areas of my life over the years.

For all these reasons, and more, I celebrate God’s goodness in ushering me into another decade of life. Reflecting on where I’ve been and where I’m at gives me hope for where I’ll be.

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So there you have it. I had typed up 40 lessons I’ve learned in the last 40 years. It was a lot safer – the jeans and t-shirt version. But to some, it might have only come across as some uppity, preachy jazz, and who wants to hear that? I decided that I would share what I prefer to read – not just a lesson, but some of the story behind it. Just like I want to continue embracing wearing bathing suits as I age (but maybe only one-pieces!), I also want to embrace sharing stories that put the glory where it belongs.

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Here’s to another year of looking up sometimes!

12 thoughts on “Reflections on Turning 40 (the Version I Told Myself I Would Not Share)

  1. Pearl, this has to be the beginnings of a memoir. I would love to know more about your journey of how you went from the ‘edge of abyss to green pastures.’ I too have stood at the ‘edge of abyss’ and it is to God’s glory that you can share your story. I believe God can use it for healing in other lives who are also hurting like you were.

    1. Thank you so much, Hulda. That means a lot. I don’t know if a memoir is where God will lead but…who knows? I’m so sorry you’ve also been to the edge of the abyss. Praise God for rescuing us and interceding for us every millisecond! Love you, sister.

  2. Pearl, I loved your Reflections. As I read, I kept thinking of words like “emerging” and “transitioning.”

    God moves us out of one season of life into another and stays with us every step of the way.

    Paul’s words to the Philippians are true also of you, “I am confident that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

    I love you, dear Christian sister!

    1. Debbie, those are great descriptors. I’m so thankful that God is faithful in every season. That verse in Philippians is one of my favorites! Hope to hang onto… I love you too, sister! Your presence here is a gift.

  3. This is awesome, Pearl, and resonates so much! Thank you for being brave enough to strut in your bathing suit even though you would’ve preferred the t-shirt and jeans.

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